Managing Scar Tissue

 Isn't it incredible what surgeons can do these days? In spite of all the progress, most people who undergo surgery are surprised by the nuisance that scar tissue can have in the months and years afterward. Naturally, scar tissue isn't much of a consideration beforehand if you've got a big enough problem to warrant surgery. 

Topical ointments prescribed for use in the weeks after surgery keep the surface of scars moist, helping them stay supple and ultimately less visible. But scar tissue often runs deep, well beyond the incision cite on the surface, and can spread over time. For some, this spread of scar tissue affects joint and organ function and ultimately leads to more surgery to remove it. And then comes more scar tissue. It can become a vicious cycle. 

Myofascial Release (MFR) can be a huge help for reducing the tight restriction scar tissue imposes on your body. MFR improves the organization and glide between the layers of tissue in the scar itself. 

But an incision is often just the tip of the iceberg. In my practice, I'm routinely treating the drag-like effect scars put on adjacent tissue. I often feel these soft tissue restrictions spreading through the body quite a distance from the visible scar itself, often misaligning joints and distorting the body's proper alignment. This can impair function and often creates new symptoms. 

New Scars

Generally, a new scar can begin being treated with Myofascial Release 4-6 weeks after surgery. The sooner the better, as a young scar is easiest to organize. The incision should be healed well enough for both sides of it to stay together when the edges of the scar are stretched in opposite directions. A well-organized scar will create less strain in your fascial system over time, minimizing its impact.

Old Scars

It's never to late to address the potentially widespread compensations mature scars create in your whole-body fascial webbing. The slow, sustained nature of Myofascial Release is ideally suited for the task. 

The mature scar itself may be very resistant to change years after surgery, but a lot can be done to improve the systemic compensations a scar contributes to. One part of a totally integrated system like your fascial webbing interacts and affects other parts. The symptoms caused by this interrelatedness can be surprising.  

The tug of an old abdominal scar, producing fascial strain up through the thoracic cavity, for example, may predispose you to neck pain, headaches or other issues that won't remind you at all of the old abdominal issue that required surgery. An old scar in the chest may lead to rotator cuff problems or tennis elbow or problems in the hand or wrist. 

Things happen. Sometimes surgery is necessary. Minimizing the effect scar tissue has on the fascial framework of the body through Myofascial Release just makes sense and should be a part of any post-operative rehabilitation. Topical ointments are a good start for helping the incision itself to heal properly in the weeks just after surgery. But Myofascial Release works much farther and deeper, reducing the likelihood of one problem cascading into another. 

Myofascial Release AFTER Breast Cancer

It's suddenly Breast Cancer Awareness month again. Though every month is for me, because I frequently help breast cancer survivors. This is one of the most intriguing conditions to treat. 

I consider Myofascial Release essential for breast cancer survivors, as lumpectomies,  mastectomies, lymph node removal, radiation and breast reconstruction surgeries take huge tolls on the health of the connective tissue in and around the chest wall, into the arm pit, upper arm and beyond.

Fascial Problems after breast cancer surgery

The binding of adhered fascial tissue from breast cancer surgery often causes pain in the chest wall or less frequently down the side of the torso that can last for months or years, or come and go. Significant reductions in range of shoulder motion are also common.

Lymph node removal may cause tightness from the armpit down into the arm, sometimes all the way to the wrist. Usually this is referred to as "cording" or Axillary Web Syndrome. Cording typically involves coagulated lymphatic fluid stuck in fibrotic or fascially thickened lymphatic vessels. This combines with the broader fascial strain in the arm as a result of the surgery. The stiffened, tubular lymphatic vessels feel like webs or cords pulling in the arm, which limits range of motion.

Myofascial Release softens and elongates the strained tissue around the vessels and increases the pliability of the vessel walls themselves, which are held together by fascia. Fluid in the area flows more easily, and the affected areas typically become much healthier and more comfortable. 

Fascial problems after breast reconstruction

New breast can be made out of all kinds of things these days: abdominal muscles, butt muscles, back muscles even leg muscles. 

For decades, the TRAM flap procedure has been used for breast reconstruction. This surgery moves abdominal muscle and belly fat up into the chest to create new breasts. It's an incredible surgery that you can watch on YouTube if you've got a strong stomach. In addition to the mastectomy scarring, this procedure essentially comes with a tummy tuck. The abdominal fascia is sown down incredibly tightly after the tissue is removed. This surgery is waning in popularity because it comes with permanent abdominal weakness and increased risk of hernias and chronic pain. Myofascial Release can help reduce those risks.

Women who undergo mastectomy and opt for the lattisimus flap procedure for breast reconstruction have one of their back muscles cut and moved into the chest, which by contrast to the TRAM flap is small potatoes. This bodily reengineering also adds another scar to the mix from the cancer removal, however. This one can bind down into the ribs in the back causing pain and adds an additional dimension of myofascial restriction that over time can create a variety of problems in the shoulder girdle, especially tendonitis and bursitis. Myofascial Release helps reduce these risks too. 

If you or someone you love has been affected by any of these common issues in the wake of surviving breast cancer, Myofascial Release can be of enormous benefit. MFR creates more freedom and ease of movement and improves the cellular health. For many it also has profound impacts emotionally. Please forward this post to someone in your life who could use this help. 

Reduce Stress for Stronger Immune System

This article is part of a series on improving your immune system. Find more on the immune system series COMING SOON.

Stress is scary and prickly and sweeping the nation. It cannot be ignored in a discussion about the immune system, because stress is also creating chronic disease. In fact, 95% of all illness is caused or worsened by stress.

There is an epidemic of stress-related disorders and diseases in our society, including depression, anxiety, dementia, heart disease, cancer, and alzheimers.

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty, but I want to explain something very important. It could save your life! An increase in stress causes an increase in cortisol. This is good if it happens very occasionally. Trouble is, times have changed so that our cortisol levels are always raised.

What is cortisol?

You might know of cortisol as the flight or fight hormone. We are equipped with this hormone to be released very rarely and for a short period of time.

Why are my cortisol levels raised?

Times have changed and become more demanding so that most people have cortisol racing through them all of the time, rather than on an episodic basis. People are racing around from place to place, trying to make deadlines, while multi-tasking, and burning the candle at both ends. To top it off, we get going in the morning with an upper and wind down at night with a downer.

We use substances to manage our moods. In fact, the four top-selling items in grocery stores are all drugs that we use to manage our mood and energy: caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and nicotine.

Why is it dangerous?

In self-medicating our stress, we are depleting the adrenal glands, the very glands designed to naturally manage our stress. Additionally, stress triggering the flight or fight response is leading to raised blood sugar, which is leading to inflammation and other diseases by increasing the level of C-reactive protein in the body.

**Don’t space out on my here, I know I am getting technical, but get this —

C-reactive protein is a marker for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and alzheimers. And stress is increasing our levels of C-reactive protein.

What can I do to support my body when stressed?

Support Your Adrenals and lower your cortisol:

  1. Relax – Learn how to actively relax. You must engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body by doing something. Sitting in front of the TV is not therapeutic. Active relaxation can include myofascial release treatments, Yamuna Body Rolling, yoga, meditation, or a walk in the woods.
  2. Deep belly breathing
  3. Exercise – It’s been proven to be the most effective treatment for depression.
  4. Supplements – You might want to consider a multivitamin, with high levels of B-complex and magnesium. Or use adaptogenic herbs, because they help you adapt and balance your body’s response to stress, such as Rhodiola rosea, ashwagandha, Schizandra (available at health food stores).
  5. Orgasm – Yes, an orgasm is a tremendous way to flush cortisol from your system.

Exercise for a Stronger Immune System

This article is part of a series on improving your immune system. Find more on the immune system series COMING SOON.

Exercise may be far more beneficial than any drug, vitamin, mineral, or herb in the prevention and treatment of an array of physical and mental health problems.

When I talk about exercise, I’m loosely referring to 3 different activities:

  1. aerobic activity
  2. strength training
  3. stretching

Picture these 3 activities like the sides of a triangle. If you take away one side of the triangle, it will ultimately collapse. All 3 are necessary in optimizing your health and wellness.

Aerobic Exercise

Studies recommend anywhere from 150-250 minutes/week of moderate-intensity exercise for people with an established exercise routine. If you are just getting started, you’ll want to start out gradually, aiming for at least 3 20-minute periods of continuous rhythmic activity, such as jogging, swimming, biking, walking, jump-roping, tennis, etc.

Strength Training

Include strength training 2-3 times each week. There are many different ways to accomplish this, and you may find one that works especially well for you. Or you might want a combination of strengthening activities. Remember to use each of your major muscle groups, and remember to breathe.


The stretching aspect of your exercise should occur after you’ve warmed your body up or better yet, finished a full workout. Stretching lengthens the muscles that have shortened through exercise and from the imbalances resulting from the more sedentary lifestyles brought by modern day conveniences. Remember the importance of at least 90 seconds for each stretch to make your stretching capable of releasing binds within the fascia that holds the muscles together. This goes a long way toward pain prevention. Of course, I still think the world of Yamuna Body Rolling. It falls into this category of stretching but often has a much bigger impact than stretching alone offers.


And finally, I’d like to suggest that you try an exercise that promotes mind-body awareness, as this has also been proven to boost overall health and wellness. Some more popular mind-body activities that you can find classes for locally include: yoga, tai chi, pilates, and qigong.

Some benefits of movement and exercise:

  • improves quality of life
  • eases performance of daily activity
  • aids in control of blood pressure
  • reduces fatigue
  • improves circulation
  • helps maintain bone density and prevents osteoporosis
  • reduces stress levels and depression
  • regulates sleep habits
  • helps regulate blood sugar
  • improves joint structure and function
  • increases good cholesterol (HDL)
  • reduces risk of coronary artery disease
  • increases range of motion
  • improves posture
  • decreases body fat

Please take a moment and share your experiences with exercise. I’d love to know what works for you and/or what gets in your way.